Lesson # 4

"A World Of Inspiration"

FOR MORE than two decades John Mclaughlin has proved himself
to be a consummate master of both acoustic and electric improvisation
 Although volumes could be written about his staggeringly diverse
 abilities the examples that follow illluminate some of the ele-
ments that have earned him a prominent position in contemporary guitar.
Ex. 1 reflects the Coltrane- and Parker-inspired jazz of
John's Electric Guitarist period. Measures 1 and 2 feature a four-note
linear bebop sequence that progresses in perfect fourths. Although
the line superimposes the A, D, G, C, and F triads over Amaj7-D7-
Gmaj7, it sounds correct due to its intervallic motion. He abandons
the sequence at bar 2's second beat, where he resolves to Gmaj7's
3rd (B) and prepares for the descent to bar 3's Ebmaj9. On measure
3's third beat he incorporates the open B string, springs to Bmaj7's
3rd (D#), and continues the idea into bar 4 with open E.

 Typical of Mclaughlin's Electric Dreams phase, Ex. 2 uses a three-
note grouping that cycles through the primarily straight-sixteenths
context. The Eb note sounds great over Fmaj7 especially at bpm = 172!
Measure 1's quintuplet enables him to sync up the subsequent
groupings with Fmaj7s downbeat. He concludes with a two-notes-
per-string rapid-fire Cminor/Eb major pentatonic riff over Fmaj7.

John's acoustic explorations are virtually unparalleled in terms of
technique and articulation. Ex. 3 requires very precise execution.
Demonstrating his vast fluency, the various four-note groupings
move either in fourths (measure 1, beats three and four) or stepwise
(beginning with bar 2's third beat). in measure 3 he ascends with a
tension-invoking line that draws from the Bb symmetrical dimin-
ished scale, although beat four anticipates D7. Throughout the first
four bars, he creates dissonance by using the perfect 7th over the domi-
nant harmonies.

Ex. 4 displays facets of John's acoustic blues approach. Measure 1
primarily utilizes the G blues pentatonic scale, although the fourth-
beat E anticipates C9. Triplets predominate in the next three bars.
Beginning at measure 2's second beat, he alternates between two
three-note rifts, adding a third pattern to the equation on measure
3's third beat.

Ex. 5 acknowledges the ethnic influences that played such an
important role during John's Shakti period and other acoustic out-
ings. Throughout, he pits dizzying chromaticism against the D ped-
al's modal implications. Like Django Reinhardt-one of John's great-
est influences-he unleashes a barrage of notes when you least ex-
pect it.

Another example of McLaughlin's superb acoustic work, Ex. 6
has a tasteful, sweet spanish ambience. The B11 and C#m7 chords
suggest an E key center. As the long, consonant line descends, he in-
terjects grace-note pull-offs and avoids playing on the beat, which
contribute to the overall motion and feel of rhythmic suspension.
An eternal seeker, John McLaughlin has explored everything
from straight-ahead jazz to East Indian-influenced acoustic music
to synthesis to high-energy fusion. Here's hoping this music fuels
your own improvisational quests.

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